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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Eradication of invasive moth begins in late January

The eradication of the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) will soon be underway later this month.

The plan is to deploy twist tie traps throughout Davis, in hopes of protecting interests of the Yolo County Agriculture Industry. Some leading scientists, however, disapprove.

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the eradication aims to get rid of the invasive species of LBAM, a native insect of Australia. The species was discovered in California roughly three years ago, and in April 2009, the moth was detected in Davis.

“Effectively quarantining the outlined areas is important to protect the large amount of agriculture in Yolo County,” said John Young, Yolo County’s agriculture commissioner. “The damage of LBAM establishing itself in California is a potential loss of $100 million in production costs.”

Young believes the twist tie solution has a very high probability of complete eradication of LBAM in Davis.

According to Young, there have been seven finds of LBAM in Davis. The traps will proceed to eradicate moths 1.5 miles around each find site, with a deployment area of 200 meters across the site. Residents within this quarantined space will be notified. The estimated time frame for the entire project is six to nine months.

Sites where the moth has been found include Oak Ave. and Russell Boulevard., as well as 14th Street and F Street.

Colleen Flannery, Aggie Alum and representative for the Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment, said, “Our [OEHHA] scientists have determined that the chemical used in the twist ties presents a very low to none potential health risk to adults or children.”

The twist tie traps are infused with Isomate LBAM Plus. They release the same pheromone female moths send out when they are ready to mate. Instead of applying the costly alternative – pesticides – the twist ties prevent reproduction. The male moths are led astray, ensuring a decrease in the moth population.

Although Isomate LBAM Plus is safe and specifically designed for the species of LBAM, other experts investigating the issue consider it a futile approach.

James Carey, professor of Entomology at UC Davis, has done intensive research on numerous accounts of invasive species in California. He does not believe implementation of twist tie traps can accomplish complete eradication. Carey predicts the moth will return to the region soon after the traps are removed, even if there are initial signs of fewer moths.

“There are some mountains you can’t move, some sicknesses you can’t cure and there are insects you can’t eradicate,” Carey said.

Carey does not believe the moth is as substantial of a threat as the Department of Agriculture claims, and he believes its approach is misguided. He said the large economic clout agriculture has in Yolo County weighs heavily in the decision to take immediate action against the LBAM.

“This project is based on legislative criteria, not biological criteria,” Carey said. “There is no evidence suggesting LBAM to be a major crop pest.”

LBAMs are already widespread, as surrounding areas like parts of the Bay Area and Napa County, are also dealing with the infestation. The moth has infested 18 different counties in California.

Among the possible 2,000 species and 250 crops the moth can affect are blackberries, raspberries, citrus trees and grapes. It also attacks plants, like roses and lilies.

An informative discussion will be held Jan. 14, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Club Room of the Veterans Memorial Center, at 203 East 14th St.

MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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